Here’s the speech delivered by Dr Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, member of the European Parliament, at a public demonstration against the war in Ukraine, which took place in the southeastern German city of Erlangen on Saturday, 26 March. The Malian-born European parliamentarian makes a strong case for African students displaced by the war who are currently seeking refuge in the EU
The reason we have gathered here today to protest against unspeakable injustice is a terrible one: war has been raging in Europe for four weeks now.
In a country in Europe that is about 850 km away from Erlangen (Germany), there is war. It is terrible that people who just a short time ago, like you and me, got up in the morning, went to school and to work, are now uprooted and struggling to survive.
Growing up and living with peace as a matter of course is not something that everyone in the world is born with. For most of us gathered here, it is. The war in Ukraine shows us our vulnerability, which we often overlook when dealing with our world and our fellow human beings. The war and its images call us to be awake and active for peace.
We cannot be indifferent to what is happening a few hundred kilometres away from here, and that is why I call out to the Ukrainians and all refugees: we will not leave you alone!
I am overwhelmed by how many people are expressing their solidarity here today and showing that, despite all individual differences, we stand up together for peace. All of us, all of you and all those fleeing war deserve the same respect without exception. And yet it exists, the hidden but also open racism that wants to claim differences in the treatment of a human being and that does not remain silent despite the war.
For weeks we have been receiving pictures showing how Black people, often students who were in Ukraine on exchange, are stopped at the border and prevented in their attempts to flee. It must be said very loudly in this regard: Everyone has the right to flee and to be treated in a welcoming manner, regardless of their skin colour, nationality or sexual orientation.
Fortunately, many people in this country have become active in helping those who have been and are being made more difficult to flee. Against this background, I would like to explicitly thank the students of Ohm-Gymnasium Erlangen who renewed their commitment to the project “School without Racism – School with Respect” last Friday and collected money for those very refugee students from Ukraine who were victims of racist violence at the border.
We have to help where we can. It is great to see how great society’s willingness is to take in refugees, to care for them, to give them safety and security for at least a few hours. I am grateful for that, I am grateful to all of you!
However, more needs to be done. Last week, I wrote a letter to the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen asking them to allow all students who have studied in Ukraine and come to Erlangen to continue their studies without bureaucratic hurdles.
Many German universities are highly committed to enabling students and researchers who have fled Ukraine to continue their education or work. Students from third countries who are enrolled at Ukrainian universities only have this option if they cannot return to their countries of origin. I would like to suggest that all those who were already engaged in their academic education in Ukraine should be given the opportunity to continue their education in this country.
As a global community, it must be in our interest that young people invest in their future through education. As citizens of a university city, it must be in our interest to take responsibility in this regard and keep the gates of education open for all those who have escaped the war and its supposed lack of alternatives.
Therefore, I call on those responsible once again: Show solidarity with all refugees and ensure that all students from Ukraine find new future perspectives and sound educational opportunities here in Erlangen.
With all the terrible images reaching us at the moment, with all the suffering we are told about, one thing gives me hope: your willingness to stand up for people who have lost everything. People who are fleeing from the most terrible side of our humanity, war.
I count on our full and continued solidarity, on the importance we attach to the education of young people and on charity towards our fellow human beings.